Nair Women and the Home: Konniyur Meenakshi Amma

Translated by J Devika

 

[This is an earlier version of a translation that appeared in my book Her-Self, from Stree/Samya, Kolkata, 2005. For a fuller, annotated version, please refer the book]

Konniyoor K. Meenakshi Amma (1901-80) was born at Konniyoor in a well-known Nair family as the eldest daughter of P.S. Velu Pillai and Kutti Amma. She was the first woman from the district to have secured a postgraduate degree. She had a long teaching career in Thiruvananthapuram, from 1925 to 1956. She was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi during his visit to Tiruvitamkoor in 1925 to become a well-known social worker in Tiruvitamkoor, a calling she took up with renewed zest after her retirement from service in 1956. She represents the conservative strand of ‘women’s uplift’ in early Malayali feminism, which seeks an active role for women at home but does not directly question gender injustice and inequality. She returned to her native village of Konniyoor that year, and became very active as a grass-roots development activist, and played a very important role in electrifying her village, in bringing modern health-care and family planning services to the region, in connecting the village to other areas by building a bridge across the Achenkovil river etc. She was honoured by her students and the local people in 1975 with a library built in the village named after her. She wrote extensively in magazines in the 1920s and 30s, and was a respected public speaker. Her publications include Neenda Nizhal, Pushpakam and Atmabali, and many other translations from English. Continue reading “Nair Women and the Home: Konniyur Meenakshi Amma”